While one theater-anchored retail project in Westwood Village is drawing intense opposition from homeowner groups, a rival project has garnered the support of some of those same community leaders.
Cineamerica Theaters LP of Encino wants to build a retail, restaurant and movie theater complex on the west side of the Village in an area bounded by Weyburn, Gayley and Broxton avenues.
If approved, Cineamerica would raze the Mann's Four-Plex and the Regent theaters and build a two-story, 60,000-square-foot, 13-screen movie theater with 3,000 seats. Shops and restaurants would comprise the remainder of the 120,000-square-foot complex, with little or no net gain in overall theater seats.
The project has already won the tentative support of Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood.
"I think it's a terrific project that conceptually fits with the Village," Lake said. "We've explained some of our concerns, mainly the parking shortfall and there may be some solutions. It's a project without a fatal flaw."
Lake is one of the leading opponents of a plan by developer Ira Smedra's Arba Group to build a 13-screen movie theater with restaurants and shops in a 437,000-square-foot project on the east side of the village, in an area bounded by Weyburn, Glendon and Tiverton avenues.
Smedra's project is more than three times the size of the Cineamerica project too large for the area, according to Debbie Gendel of Friends of Westwood.
She says the Smedra development will generate more traffic for residential streets, while most of the traffic for the Cineamerica project will flow onto Veteran Avenue.
Cineamerica President and CEO Charles Goldwater said his location is more consistent with the character of the Village.
"It fits within the streetscape," he said. "And with the sidewalk widening on Broxton Avenue and the new city parking lot going up across the street from our project, it appears as if the city planners have recognized the importance of this central location."
There may not be room for both projects. The Westwood Village Specific Plan limits the number of theater seats to the current 6,030. While Cineamerica would simply replace existing seats, the Arba project would add 3,400 new seats.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer, who represents Westwood, said he is open to both projects, however, saying there is a logic to "bookend" the Village with new theater projects on the east and west sides.
The Smedra project is concluding a public comment period and it will be submitted to city officials this summer. Cineamerica is revising its application at the request of city officials.
Despite the opposition of Friends of Westwood, Smedra's Village Center Westwood project has won the support of Westwood merchants and others who say it will help revitalize the struggling commercial district.
More than 2,000 residents and merchants have joined a group organized by the developers, Westwood 2000, to support the project.
Smedra rejects contentions by Lake that he has not been responsive to the community. "I think we can document well over 100 meetings in the last 18 months with community members, homeowner board members, community leaders and homeowner annual and monthly meetings," Smedra said.
Although the Arba project is about two years farther along in the development process, Cineamerica's Goldwater does not feel that it will jeopardize his project.
"It is hard to predict what will happen as it is dependent upon the final components of the Smedra project," he said. "We feel the Village would be best served by one new multiplex that would have a sufficient number of seats and screens to serve the community not overwhelm it."
Feuer has asked Smedra to add space in his project for a public library and community playhouse. Smedra said that he will know within the next four to six weeks if those additions will be feasible.
"We are in discussions with two non-profit live theater operators about the possibility of live theaters being added to the project," Smedra said.
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